We do not build enough homes in the UK.
Over the past ten years, the UK should have built 250,000 every year. Instead, we built half that number. This means that the country is in a worse position now than we were in 2004. To get back on an even keel, we would need to build enough homes to create a city the size of Birmingham.
To compound the situation, housing organisations like Curo find ourselves operating in an increasingly challenging economic environment. The loss of traditional funding, along with the impacts of welfare reform changes, reduced capital subsidy, less security of tenure and the growth of the unregulated private rented sector are all affecting our ability to provide more homes.
Being able to rent or own a home in the South West of England is beyond the reach of many people and demand for homes continues to outstrip supply in the region. Bath is the fourth least affordable place to live in the UK and the average house price in Bath & North East Somerset is 11.7 times the average salary. Bristol and many other areas in the region are not far behind.
House building remains a thorny issue in many communities. All too often, the people who most need new homes don’t get involved in the debates about house building, leaving the ‘no to homes’ voice to drown out those speaking up for new housing. At Curo, we’re backing a national campaign that’s asking local people to start saying yes to homes in their neighbourhoods, by letting their local councillors and MPs know that they support new homes being built in the right places.
We’re also responding to these challenges and the need to deliver more new homes, by thinking differently. We need to continue providing affordable, well-maintained homes and high quality services to our existing tenants. To do this, we need to generate income for the organisation from additional, more commercial activities.
At Curo, we have created our own house building team, set up to create new homes for sale and rent. This part of the organisation will grow over the next few years to be capable of building 500 new homes a year.
Selling new homes will enable us to make many things possible, things that we would otherwise struggle to fund. Profit generated from house sales will cross-subsidise the development of affordable homes for rent and shared ownership. It will also help us to regenerate our existing homes and build integrated mixed tenure communities. Within the first project of this kind, Mulberry Park, Bath, we are planning to build 700 new homes, to regenerate 500 existing homes and provide new open spaces and facilities to create a vibrant, inclusive, mixed tenure community that people can be proud to be part of.
While we will operate in a highly competitive, commercial environment, we’ll ensure that there’s social purpose at the heart of all we do. Other house builders are incentivised to build and sell as quickly as possible, with no long-term involvement in the communities they leave behind. Housing organisations like Curo bring a significant advantage: we remain part of the communities we develop.
We want other organisations to work alongside us to make a positive difference too – so we’ll be asking our joint-venture partners, sub-contractors and supply chain to do their bit too. We’ll be asking them to create apprenticeships, training and employment opportunities for local people, to ensure that the opportunities created by our house building business stay within the local economy.
Everything we do commercially will be with the ultimate aim of doing more of the things at our social heart – making a positive and profound contribution to the neighbourhoods we work in – inspiring and empowering people to succeed in life.